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13 April 2011, 12:13
A teenager from Gateshead, who was taken to hospital with suspected meningitis, has died and a classmate is being treated for the bug.
Fellow Year 10 pupils at Emmanuel College, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, have been given antibiotics after the alarm was raised when the two boys fell ill at the weekend.
The two teenagers were treated at Newcastle Royal Victoria Infirmary where a trust spokeswoman said: "One youngster has died and the other is slowly improving.''
Dr Tricia Cresswell, of the Health Protection Agency (HPA), said: ``Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the student who has died. This has been a sad reminder of how devastating this illness can be.
"It's crucial to be able to recognise the signs and symptoms and to get treatment as soon as possible. But even with early recognition sadly it is not always possible to stop the rapid progress of this disease.
"Meningococcal bacteria do not spread easily. Only people who have had prolonged, close contact with the person are at a slightly increased risk of becoming unwell.
"Because both students developed the infection around the same time, all students in Year 10 were offered antibiotics.
"This is strictly as a precautionary measure and there is no additional risk to other students and staff members.
"We are working closely with the school and our colleagues at NHS South of Tyne and Wear and Gateshead NHS Foundation Trust and all appropriate measures are already in place.''
Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the brain and can be caused by several types of germs.
According to the HPA, the risk of catching meningitis or septicaemia from someone with the infection is very small.
The risk is slightly higher in people living in the same household or having ``intimate kissing'' contact with someone with the illness, but the risk is still small.
Other people in contact, including those in the same classroom at school, are not thought to have an increased risk of catching the disease.